#188: The Right Way to Praise Your Athlete To Build Her Confidence & Foster a Growth Mindset

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Have you ever wondered if the way you praise your young athlete is actually helping them?

Today we’re diving into something that might surprise you:  the power of praise!

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  Praise is good, right? We should be showering our daughters with “good job”s and “you’re amazing”s after every game. But hold on a sec, because there’s actually a science to praise, and using the right kind can make a world of difference for your young athlete.

The Missed Opportunity: Praise for Performance Outcomes

Unfortunately, many sports parents miss a golden opportunity to build confidence when their daughters perform well. We often praise the outcome – the win, the points scored – and move on. However, this approach overlooks the chance to truly connect effort with achievement.

Outcome Praise vs. Effort Praise

Here’s the surprising part: praising intelligence or outcome (“You’re so good!” “You won!”) can backfire. Dr. Carol Dweck’s research on praise sheds light on this issue. Her study divided children into three groups:

  • Intelligence Praise. Praised for being smart (e.g., “You’re so good at math!”).
  • Effort Praise. Praised for hard work (e.g., “You kept trying, that’s great!”).
  • Control Group. Received no feedback.

The children then completed math problems. Interestingly, the effort-praised group chose harder problems, wanting to further demonstrate their abilities. Conversely, the intelligence-praised group opted for easier tasks, fearing failure and jeopardizing their perceived intelligence.

Here’s the kicker: After completing the problems, the effort-praised group’s performance improved, while the intelligence-praised group’s performance declined.

The Impact: Why Effort Matters More

Praising outcomes creates pressure to maintain a certain level, hindering risk-taking and leading to a fixed mindset (believing talent is static). On the other hand, effort-based praise fosters a growth mindset.

Think about it.  When we tell our daughters they’re “so good,” it might make them want to avoid challenges. They might shy away from trying new things or pushing themselves harder for fear of messing up and losing that praise. It’s like they’re carrying this label, “best player,” and they don’t want to do anything to jeopardize it. Can you imagine the pressure?

But here’s the good news: there’s a better way! We can shift our praise to focus on effort, on the things our daughters can control. And guess what? This kind of effort-based praise has some seriously awesome benefits. 

  • It boosts motivation. When we highlight their hard work, perseverance, and smart choices, it sends a message that effort is the key to success. Challenges become opportunities to learn and grow, not roadblocks to avoid. 
  • Effort-based praise leads to better performance over time. Because your daughter is focused on what she can control, she’s more likely to learn from mistakes, keep improving, and ultimately reach her full potential.
  • Effort-based praise builds confidence. And let’s not forget the confidence factor!  Effort-based praise builds confidence from the ground up. It tells your daughter, “Hey, you worked hard for that, and it paid off!” That feeling of accomplishment, knowing that success comes from dedication and hard work, is pure gold.

Putting Effort-Based Praise into Action: Tips for Success

Alright, so how do we actually put this into practice?  How do we shift our praise game from outcome to effort? Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Ditch the adjectives and focus on verbs. Instead of “You’re so good at defense,” try “I loved seeing you hustle after that loose ball!” 
  • Get specific. Point out the actions you see. “That pass you threw to open your teammate up for the goal? Awesome teamwork!” 
  • Celebrate progress. Remember all those hours practicing that shot? Now’s the time to say, “See? All that practice really paid off!”

The key here is to create a connection between the effort your daughter puts in and the results she achieves. Sure, there are tons of factors that influence the outcome of a game, but by praising effort, you’re highlighting the things she can control and the things that are truly hers.

Building Confidence Through Effort: It Gets Easier!

Now, listen, I know what you’re thinking.  This might feel a little awkward at first.  We’re so used to praising outcomes.  But trust me, it gets easier with practice.  And guess what?  There are some awesome resources out there to help you along the way.

Speaking of resources, I’ve got a free cheat sheet with 25 key phrases for effort-based praise.  These are phrases you can use before, during, and after games to keep that focus on effort.  Think of it as your little cheat sheet for raising a confident, growth-mindset athlete!

You can grab that cheat sheet, along with a whole bunch of other goodies, over at my free training program at trainhergame.com. This program is all about helping sports parents like you build your daughters’ mental game and confidence. We take a closer look at the science behind what’s going on in your daughter’s brain when she’s competing, and equip you with the tools to not only help her with what you say, but also how you can give her the skills to strengthen her mental game and confidence on her own.

Think of it as your personal playbook for raising a champion, not just on the field, but in life!  We’ll cover things like:

  • Developing a growth mindset. Helping your daughter see challenges as opportunities to learn and grow, not roadblocks to avoid.
  • Building mental toughness. Equipping her with the tools to manage nerves, bounce back from setbacks, and stay focused under pressure.
  • Creating a positive self-talk habit. Helping her develop the inner voice of a champion who believes in herself and her abilities.
  • Developing healthy coping mechanisms. Teaching her healthy ways to deal with frustration, anxiety, and disappointment.

By the end of the program, you’ll have a toolbox full of strategies to help your daughter not only perform her best on the field, but also thrive as a young athlete and develop the mental strength that will benefit her in all areas of life!

The Bottom Line

So, are you ready to take your daughter’s game (and her confidence!) to the next level? Head over to trainhergame.com and sign up for my free training program today! You won’t regret it.

And remember, sports parents, it’s not about winning or losing – it’s about the journey, the growth, and the lessons learned along the way. By focusing on effort-based praise and nurturing your daughter’s mental game, you’re setting her up for success on and off the field. Now get out there and cheer on your amazing athlete!

Episode Highlights: 

[00:00] Praising athletes to build confidence and foster growth mindset.

[01:50] Praising athletes for performance outcomes vs. specific skills.

[05:01] Dr. Dweck’s study on praise’s impact on motivation in sports.

[06:00] Praising children’s effort vs. intelligence.

[11:44] The impact of praise on athletes’ mental game.

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